By Alan Davis
We have looked at two elements of conversion so far: Regeneration and Faith. We have determined based on God’s word and our historic Baptist doctrines that regeneration, repentance and faith are graces of God. That one cannot happen without the other two. C.H. Spurgeon put it this way, “Which is first, the new birth, or faith, or repentance? Nobody can tell which spoke of a wheel moves first; it moves as a whole. The moment the divine life comes into the heart, we believe: the moment we believe, the eternal life is there. We repent because we believe, and believe while we repent.”
Today I want to deal with a third element of conversion, which is repentance. The Baptist Faith and Message (2000) says of repentance: Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace. Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour.
The New Hampshire Confession of Faith (1833) states on the subject of repentance: We believe that Repentance and Faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God; whereby being deeply convinced of our guilt, danger, and helplessness, and of the way of salvation by Christ we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession, and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Prophet, Priest, and King, and relying on him alone as the only and all-sufficient Saviour.
The Abstract of Principles which, was in the original charter of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary 1858, states concerning repentance: Repentance is an evangelical grace, wherein a person being, by the Holy Spirit, made sensible of the manifold evil of his sin, humbleth himself for it, with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrence, with a purpose and endeavor to walk before God so as to please Him in all things.
As Baptists we have historically believed that repentance and faith are totally inseparable graces given to us by God. Also, as Baptists we have believed that these graces are just that: gifts from God. This would include that great grace of repentance which scripture requires of those who are truly born again. Because men and the writings of men can and many times will be faulty but the “Word of God stands forever”, we must always return to “Thus saith the Lord”.
John the Baptist preached a message of repentance towards God and fruits of this repentance. This message was clearly given a stamp of approval by our Lord when He commended John as the greatest man born of woman. Our Savior picked up this same message after John’s imprisonment in the Gospel of Mark preaching “repent and believe the gospel”. Jesus also reminds us in Luke 13:3 “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish”. We can quickly draw a conclusion that repentance towards God is an important subject for our Savior and there seems to be an urgency about this repentance also. In the last chapter of Luke Jesus clearly gives His disciples (then and now) a command “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations…” Jesus was clear in the gospels that repentance is necessary for salvation. If this subject was so important to our Savior it makes us ask at least one question; what is true biblical repentance?
The word repent is most frequently translated from the Greek verb metanoeo, which denotes a change in perception or a change in one’s view of reality. This gives us the idea of a radical change in the way one views themselves and their world. When God, by His grace, lifts the scales from a sinner’s eyes that sinner will be convicted of his sinfulness and brought to repentance. This means he will see himself as God sees him: a degenerate totally depraved person, guilty before God and deserving of hell and God’s wrath. In man’s conversion he is brought about to a radically different view than he has ever had before. That which he used to love (his sin) he now begins to hate and wants to flee from it. That which he used to hate (the law of God) he now begins to love and wants to keep. Biblical repentance will radically change one’s view of self, his world, and one’s view of God. The apostle Paul put it this way, “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner …” 2Co 7:9.
When we see true Scriptural repentance there will be some godly fruit. We will see this in things such as a brokenness for one’s sin, a change of mind and perception on the things of God, a renunciation of self-righteousness or good works, and a practical obedience as God’s Word is revealed. These are not the only fruits but some of what will bear forth from a truly repentant believer. We see some of these fruits as evidence of true repentance in the life of the Apostle Paul, the Ethiopian, and others in the scriptures. Our Lord Jesus has told us that a “good tree will bear good fruit.”
Puritan author, Thomas Watson, said of true repentance, “Repentance is a spiritual medicine made up of six special ingredients; sight of sin, sorrow for sin, confession of sin, shame for sin, hatred for sin, and a turning from sin. Watson also says, “There is no rowing to paradise except on the stream of repenting tears.” Repentance, true Biblical Repentance, will bear some fruit of turning from sin, following Christ and continuing in repentance. Regeneration wrought by the Holy Spirit will cause a sinner to respond with repentance and faith. The “spokes” of the wheel all move at the same time under the power of God, “salvation of the righteous is of the Lord” Ps 37:9a.
So what is one to do when God reveals one’s sin and need for forgiveness? “Repent and believe the gospel”. Man’s proper response when the Spirit of God removes the scales from one’s eyes is to turn from one’s sin and self and turn to Jesus Christ, trusting in His finished work of salvation as revealed to us in His Word. “…but now (God) commandeth all men every where to repent:” Act 17:30b.
Pastor Alan Davis
Woodland Baptist Church
August 13, 2012